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Asterisk: The PBX for the Rest of Us

By steve - Posted on 14 June 2005

For the last few months, I've been getting to know the Asterisk PBX software and Digium hardware. The idea was to develop and build a reproducible, custom phone solution for clients that need more than a traditional small business phone system and less than a full-blown PBX.

Asterisk allows you to build a complete solution that includes all of the features of a closed system, costing 10's of thousands of dollars, for the cost of some COTS hardware, a few specialized PCI cards, and a little script customization.

I'll follow up later with my reproducible, jumpstart solution as I iron out a few more details and turn up my first production system. Until then, here's a list of what the jumpstart configuration includes.

Software Platform

Hardware Platform

  • VIA MII12000 ITX motherboard 1.2ghz
  • 512mb memory
  • 120gb disk
  • Casetronics Travla C137 12.7" x 2.7" x 10" black aluminum case (supports 2 PCI cards)
  • 2 TDM04B Digium PCI Cards (TDM card with 4 FXO each)

Phone Instruments

  • Polycom 500 IP (SIP) phones
  • SOYO G688 (SIP) phones
  • Various Softphones & USB hardware


  • Unlimited Voicemail (with email notification of new mail)
  • Standard PBX functions: hold, forward, park, pickup, etc.
  • Music on hold (via MP3s)
  • Interactive Menu system
  • Interface to internal database
  • Supports over 40 extensions
  • Supports Direct Dial (extensions can have their own 10 digit phone number)
  • Caller ID
  • Use existing data network/Cat5 wiring
  • Support for VLAN
  • Remote extensions (anywhere there is broadband)
  • Followme: incoming calls can ring a station, try a remote station, call cell phone, then go to voicemail
  • Meetme: conference rooms for "unlimited" users
  • Dial-by-name Directory is automatically updated with new users
  • Least-cost-routing using landline or VOIP providers
  • Easily configured using text configuration and script files
  • Built-in remote support capability
  • Expandable landline support (4 FXO's per TDM card or 23 lines per PRI/T1 card)

Special Features & Functions

  • Automatic system backup of configuration and/or voicemail
  • Runs headless (no monitor, keyboard, mouse required)
  • Single box (12x2x10) for voicemail, PBX, interfaces, etc supports up to 46 CO lines and unlimited extensions (up to capacity of processor)

Tested and Supported Service Providers

  • Landline Local Service: TDS (XDATA, Channel Bank), SBC (POTS, T1, PRI)
  • Landline Long Distance: To-be-determined
  • VOIP: To-be-determined

The system with support for 8 CO lines, 20 extensions, and virtually unlimited voicemail prices out at about $1300 for the switch/pbx and $3600 for phones (total of $4900):

  • PC: $600
  • Phone interface cards: $337 x 2 = $674
  • Phones: $180 x 20 = $3600
  • OS: $0
  • Asterisk: $0

For a typical 4 line/8 extension office configuration, the cost would be about $2400.

Configuration costs for typical configurations will run an additional $400 to $1200 depending on how complicated the setup needs to be.


I want to configure asterisk to run headless. Can you please point me to a tutorial or how to to get it done?

Here's an older article I wrote about running Fedora headless with grub:

This is from an offline "how to" I wrote on settings I changed on Ubuntu with lilo:

tell lilo about the console:
# nano /etc/lilo.conf
unremark:  serial=0,9600n8
add to the linux boot settings:
add: 	append="console=ttyS0,9600n8 console=tty0"
run lilo:
# lilo
tell inittab about the serial terminal in /etc/inittab
uncomment this line:
 T0:23:respawn:/sbin/getty -L ttyS0 9600 vt100
(change the 9600 to 115200, if you want to make it faster)
make sure ttyS0 is in /etc/securetty so that root can login there

Good luck!

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